Many people believe that if they eat a balanced diet, they don’t need a vitamin. I challenge that belief based on today’s research. Here’s why.
Original Date March 2013, revised 2015, 2020
- Over the last century, modern farming methods have caused massive soil depletion on the farms where we grow most of our food crops. With the exception of some smaller farms and home gardens that practice sustainable farming, involving crop rotation and composting, this soil depletion remains a significant problem for our food supply.
- Global warming is increasing the carbon dioxide levels on the planet in general. This See the TED talk below for how this happens. Rising CO2 basically causes plants to grow faster, larger and that “growth spurt” may make them harvest-able sooner, but with less nutrients available.
- Fertilizers are wreaking havoc. When WWII ended, the drug and chemical companies inherited huge amounts of nitrates and phosphates which had been used in the manufacturing of munitions during the war. They knew from earlier experience that these minerals made very effective fertilizer. They then started to aggressively market these N (nitrogen) P (phosphorus) K (potassium) fertilizers to farmers at extremely affordable prices. This made the traditional organic methods of farming uneconomical, so that by the 1960s, the majority of US farms had become wholly dependent upon NPK products. This system of farming was a tremendous success, creating lush and abundant crops, so much so, that the US had the ability to feed the world. Our soil and we, the consumer, have been paying a very steep price ever since. The nutritional contents of these fruits and vegetables have been adversely affected by this process of fertilization. Some farmers are beginning to see it and are returning to crop rotation and organic fertilizers. Try and support them if you can.
- In addition to causing mineral depletion fertilizers also weaken the crop which in turns makes it more susceptible to insect infestation. This in turn forces the farmers to use toxic chemicals to kill the insects. Dr. Jerome Weisner, Science Councillor to John F. Kennedy stated way back in 1963 that “The use of pesticides is more dangerous than atomic fallout.”
- Fruits and vegetables often go through processing before they are sold. Processing can increase loss of what vital minerals and nutrients are left. (removing grain husks, blanching, boiling, baking, steaming, bleaching and freezing all have the potential to remove nutrients from food).
- Shipping across continents and states. The US consumer’s expectation of “I want it now, even though it’s December and it’s out of season” requires much of our produce to be shipped thousands of miles to our stores. Yep, further degradation.
- And then we cook it, nuke it or boil it, degrading the content even more.
Percentage of Mineral Depletion From Soil During The Past 100 Years, By Continent:Source: UN 1992 Earth Summit
- North America 85% **
- South America 76%
- Asia 76%
- Africa 74%
- Europe 72%
- Australia 55%
** Some US farms are 100% depleted and some are 60% depleted, the average is 85% depletion as compared to 100 years ago. This is worse than in any other country in the world because of the extended use of fertilizers and “maximum yield” mass farming methods.
Fertilizers Are The Problem, Not The Solution
Dr. William A. Albrecht, Chairman of the Department of Soils at the University of Missouri, said: “A declining soil fertility, due to a lack of organic material, major elements, and trace minerals, is responsible for poor crops and in turn for pathological conditions in animals fed deficient foods from such soils, and that mankind is no exception.” Dr. Albrecht goes further to unequivocally lay the blame: “NPK formulas, as legislated and enforced by State Departments of Agriculture, mean malnutrition, attack by insects, bacteria and fungi, weed takeover, crop loss in dry weather, and general loss of mental acuity in the population, leading to degenerative metabolic disease and early death.”
Because it’s too expensive for corporations with vested interests in the current system to fix the problem until the demand for fully nutritious food is higher. The demand won’t increase until more people know about the result of mineral deficiency. More people won’t get informed until scientists and others manage to inform the public. Great. Ok, well, I’m doing my part. Now go tell your friends!
This socio-economical perspective is confirmed by a US Dept. of Agriculture official that was quoted in Diet for a New America (John Robbins, Stillpoint Publishing, 1987). Quote: “…halting soil erosion and degradation would be prohibitively expensive”. In other words the situation is not going to be fixed unless public pressure changes business and farming practices. And we stop buying mass produced fruits and vegetables.
How can plants grow without vitamins and minerals?
Most plants require only nitrogen, phosphorus and water to grow. In the presence of these nutrients, virtually all plants will grow into what appear to be healthy, nutritious adult specimens. However, if the minerals found in their natural habitat are not present in their growing soil, such fruits and vegetables will be nutritionally “empty”. As a result of this, these plants are less able to defend themselves against natural predators and are susceptible to insect attack and damage from viruses and bacteria. In order to control this, insecticides, antifungals, antibiotics, pesticides and dozens of other categories of chemicals have been designed to limit the damage done to plants by their natural enemies. Great, the plot thickens. Let’s pour on more chemicals…. Unfortunately, many of these chemicals have not been properly tested to assess their effects on either plant or human health, and virtually none have been tested in combination to assess their combined effects. The result is that most fruits, vegetables and other plant-based foods are so contaminated with a huge variety of chemicals, and so deficient in nutrient content that they actually do more harm than good. There’s been a lot of press lately about organic produce not having any greater nutritional value than non-organic, but we do not know the effect of eating all these pesticides and chemicals. I say my health is worth erring on the side of caution. It won’t help to know this in 20 years when cancers from these toxins suddenly blossom. I want to hedge my bets now. We are already seeing aggressive new forms of lymphoma in children. Is this really worth it?
How do we address the problem of depleted soils?
The simplest way to address the depleted soils problem is to re-supply them by adding organic waste products, crop rotation, and less pesticide use (this is not an exhaustive list). There are even a few companies who are focusing on organic additives that may be much safer than the above toxins.
Dr. Ebi’s Talk at TED Vancouver:
Here are more links to this subject:
- Scientific American: Nutrition Loss in Food Supply
- Scientific American:
- How More Carbon Dioxide Can Make Food Less Nutritious NYT
- Donald R. Davis, Melvin D. Epp, and Hugh D. Riordan Changes in USDA Food Composition Data for 43 Garden Crops, 1950 to 1999 J Am Coll Nutr December 2004 23:669-682
- Are your Meds Robbing Your Body of Key Nutrients? Suzy Cohen, R.Ph.
- Crop Rotation – New York Times
- Finally, I would like to thank author Richard Murray for the basic facts and framework in much of the above article. He can be found on ezinearticles.com and writes about survival gardening, and is passionate about making your food supply better.